Watch Live: The Washington Ideas Forum 2014

Ron Paul Bill Would End Federal War on Marijuana

Rep. Barney Frank is co-sponsoring the first-of-its-kind legislation, which would permit states to legalize the drug

mj full full.jpg

Are Republicans serious when they say that the federal government should cede power to the states? Where do liberal Democrats really stand on drug prohibition? Congress must now confront those questions, thanks to Reps. Ron Paul and Barney Frank. They're cosponsoring legislation "to limit the federal government's role in marijuana enforcement." States would be free to keep the drug illegal, or to allow its use per the judgment of legislators and their constituents.

Hailed as the first bill of its kind to be introduced in Congress - that's expected to happen later today - its states' rights approach is significant, and forces defenders of federal drug policy into their weakest position. It's one thing to argue that marijuana should be illegal. It's another thing to insist that the federal government enforce a nationwide ban even as duly elected state legislatures signal that the people disagree. That is the essence of the matter. Under this bill, marijuana would be legalized only in states where the people and their representatives desire it.

Is the federal government justified in stopping them?

In the era of the Tea Party, when conservative Republicans are insisting that state governments be permitted to reject Obamacare, turn down bailout money, and otherwise flex their muscles, it's a tough moment to insist, "Yes, marijuana is different: the feds should prevail." Of course, the bill is likely to fail anyway. In killing it, however, various hypocrisies will be highlighted. As a result, federal prohibition of marijuana will wind up marginally less tenable than before.

Image credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters

Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Politics

Just In